Louisiana Looks For Answers After Fires Destroy 3 Historically Black Churches

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Originally published on April 7, 2019 6:33 pm

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are continuing to follow a developing story out of Washington, D.C. That is the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. To talk more about this, we've called on Representative Will Hurd. He is a Republican. He represents the 23rd District from Texas, and his district includes hundreds of miles of the border with Mexico. In fact, he's the only remaining Republican who represents a borderline district. He's with us now. Congressman Hurd, welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining us.

WILL HURD: It's always a pleasure to be on.

MARTIN: What's your reaction to this news that Secretary Nielsen is leaving? Are you surprised?

HURD: My reaction is going - is that it's going to make a difficult situation even more difficult. You - having new leadership in your senior position because it's not only going to be a new DHS secretary with the current Border Patrol director moving into the acting position. They're going to need a new Border Patrol director. And then you are also looking for a new ICE director. So this is going to make a challenging situation even more challenging. There is indeed a crisis going on at our border. In March, we had 100,000 people come into our country illegally. To get some context for that number, last year, 400,000 people in the entire year came in illegally. And so April's going to be even worse than March.

And my advice to the new head of DHS is, No. 1, we've got to start making some tough decisions on addressing long-term problems and the root causes, which is violence and lack of economic opportunities in the Northern Triangle, which is El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We also need to make sure we're addressing some of these short-term issues like, why were 78,000 hours - man hours - by Border Patrol spent at hospitals escorting immigrants? Why do we not subcontract that out? Why do we - why does ICE, why does Border Patrol, why does CBP have three separate contracts to move people from point A to point B?

This is something that those officers shouldn't be doing. We should be subcontracting that type of work out. So the new - the acting director has his hands full. And a new head of DHS is going to have a difficult - come into a very difficult situation.

MARTIN: You alluded to the fact that there's been quite a lot of change in that department in recent days. The president, for example, withdrew his own nominee to be the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He said that he wants to go in, quote, unquote, a "tougher" direction. How do you understand that? What do you think he means by that?

HURD: Well, I don't know what he means by that. You'll have to ask him. But here's what I do now. I do know that people are taking advantage of our asylum laws. Applying for asylum is not a violation of the law. But when people are taking advantage of it, the people that really need that system are being impacted. When you have a lack of unity of effort in some places, you have a senior Border Patrol, you have a senior ICE, in some places you have a senior Coast Guard, but there's not one person in charge to make sure all the resources are being used in the right direction.

You're also going to have, you know, along the border, it's going to start getting hot in April. And that's going to have an impact on, you know, these masses of people that we have. And it's going to cause tempers to flare. So April's going to be incredibly tough. And we've got to start making some tough decisions in the short term. But again, the root causes of this problem is lack of economic opportunity and violence in the Northern Triangle. And the acting secretary should be working with the secretary of state to identify a special representative for that region.

MARTIN: All right. So much more to talk about than that. We thank you for talking with us. We hope we'll talk again in coming days. That's Representative - Congressman - that's Congressman Will Hurd from Texas. Congressman, thanks so much for talking to us.

HURD: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.